The Long Trail Home

Amber J. Keyser and Kier­si Burkhart
  • Review
By – October 8, 2018

Rif­ka, the teenage pro­tag­o­nist of The Long Trail Home, is rebelling against her par­ents and the lim­i­ta­tions and require­ments they have imposed on her. She refus­es to have a bat mitz­vah, or to have any­thing to do with the syn­a­gogue. In an effort to improve their daughter’s behav­ior and rela­tion­ships, her par­ents send her to Quartz Creek Ranch, a horse camp in Colorado.

Although the young campers don’t know much about horse­back rid­ing, the peo­ple in charge know a lot about how to deal with trou­bled teenagers. Focus­ing on clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion, con­se­quences for mis­be­hav­ior, and the struc­ture of chores and rid­ing lessons, Ma Etty, the best horse­woman in Col­orado,” has her work cut out for her.

Rifka’s camp­mate, Cat, runs away when­ev­er she feels frus­trat­ed or reject­ed. As the sto­ry unfolds, we come to under­stand why she and the oth­er teenagers behave as they do. At the book’s cli­max, Cat leaves the group while they’re on a camp­ing trip; Riv­ka feels a com­mit­ment to find her, and both girls get lost in unfa­mil­iar ter­ri­to­ry. What hap­pens next is sus­pense­ful and fright­en­ing, call­ing upon a matu­ri­ty that Riv­ka must dig deep to find.

The Long Trail Home deals with impor­tant themes such as com­mit­ment, loy­al­ty, and courage, as well as immi­gra­tion issues and the anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ment the char­ac­ters expe­ri­ence while at camp. In the small Col­orado com­mu­ni­ty where the camp is locat­ed, one per­son has already been bad­ly injured and the town is ready to have a face­off. A bit of Jew­ish his­to­ry is includ­ed as well, when Riv­ka learns, to her sur­prise, that Jew­ish pio­neers helped set­tle the west­ern Unit­ed States.

The book is rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 to 14 and will espe­cial­ly appeal to read­ers who love sto­ries about hors­es and horsemanship.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions